Thirdly and finally, we are determined to protect UK national security against risks posed by groups in Syria that are affiliated or aligned to al-Qaeda, including the al-Nusra Front and al-Qaeda in Iraq, and that are taking advantage of ungoverned space created by the conflict. We judge that more than 100 UK-linked individuals

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of concern have now travelled to Syria, and some individuals returning to the UK could pose a long-term terrorist threat.

The most important step in tackling the threat of terrorism is to end the conflict and secure a transition to a new, legitimate government in Syria. However, extremists should be in no doubt of the action that we are prepared to take to protect our national security. Our intelligence agencies and police are working to identify and disrupt potential threats, and the police have the power to examine and detain individuals at the UK border to investigate any concerns of involvement in terrorism. UK nationals of concern seeking to travel from the UK can have their passports refused or withdrawn, and foreign nationals resident in the UK can have their leave to remain revoked if they are deemed non-conducive to the public good.

International diplomacy has failed so far to resolve the crisis in Syria. The UK will continue to play a leading role in promoting a political solution, even though we may have to persist over many months; in saving lives, on which we can be proud of the contribution our country makes; and in safeguarding our national security at all times. We will continue to help countries in the middle east and north Africa make a success of their transitions, while keeping faith with their peoples, protecting the UK’s interests and trying to widen international peace and security.

1.37 pm

Mr Douglas Alexander (Paisley and Renfrewshire South) (Lab): I thank the Foreign Secretary for his statement and for advance sight of it.

I come first to events in Egypt. Although the events of the past two weeks have been a major setback for democracy, they need not represent an irreversible trend. The role of the military in any democracy must be both clearly defined and subject to Executive oversight, so the priority must now be a return to civilian rule through a credible transition process that results in swift, fair and free elections. I welcome the recent statement by interim president Mansour setting a deadline for new elections to be held before February 2014. However, recent reports suggest that not all parties have accepted that process, and there have been recent statements from the Muslim Brotherhood apparently refusing to take part. Does the Foreign Secretary agree that it is vital that the transition process from interim to full civilian government must be inclusive and representative if it is to be seen to be legitimate?

Recent reports of the arrest and imprisonment of political activists, representatives and journalists in Egypt are deeply concerning, including reports today about Egypt’s prosecutor’s office issuing warrants for a number of people affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood. Will the Foreign Secretary make clear the British Government’s position on political prisoners in Egypt?

Egypt’s long-term future will be secured not simply by an end to violence but also by the start of economic recovery. The Foreign Secretary spoke of the Deauville partnership. How much of the $38 billion originally intended from that fund, as cited in his answer to me in October 2011, has now been allocated? If he cannot give the figure this afternoon, will he place a note in the Library setting out the allocation figures?

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I turn to the ongoing crisis in Syria. I welcome, of course, the confirmation of the uplift in the UK’s commitment to help alleviate the humanitarian crisis, but the situation is none the less deteriorating. Only this morning, the Intelligence and Security Committee published a report that expresses “serious concern” about al-Qaeda elements gaining access to the “vast stockpiles” of chemical weapons within Syria. It is therefore a matter of real regret that the recent G8 summit in Northern Ireland, hosted by the United Kingdom, failed to deliver the breakthrough that we all wanted to see in relation to Syria. We all hoped that a firm date would be set for the start of Geneva 2, but even that was missing from the final communiqué. Will the Foreign Secretary set out a little more specifically what he judges the prospects to be for Geneva 2 being convened in the weeks and months ahead? I welcome his commitment that the Prime Minister intends to recall Parliament and call for a vote on a substantive motion if any decision is taken by the Government to send lethal military equipment to the Syrian opposition.

May I ask the Foreign Secretary about Jordan? It seemed a curious omission from his statement. Jordan has been a long-standing ally of the United Kingdom. I am aware that humanitarian support is being provided to Za’atari and other camps in Jordan. May I press him on what consideration the Government are giving to what other practical assistance and support can be provided to Jordan, beyond humanitarian support? The country is feeling the strain, given the extraordinary generosity it has shown during the crisis.

On the middle east peace process, we welcome the recent efforts by US Secretary of State John Kerry to bring parties together and reinvigorate the stalled talks. On departing from Israel last week, after the last of his five visits to the region alone this year, Secretary Kerry spoke of important, though not irreversible, progress that has already been made. We welcome the Foreign Secretary’s statement of support for this process, but will he set out what specific steps the British Government are taking to ensure that negotiations are urgently begun as part of Secretary Kerry’s efforts?

These negotiations take place at a time of great upheaval and uncertainty in the wider region. We welcome the election of President Rohani, but there are key steps he must now be prepared to take if the ongoing nuclear crisis is to be resolved. I echo the sentiments expressed by the Foreign Secretary: a nuclear-armed Iran is not simply a threat to Israel, but a risk to all nations. The Government will have our support in pushing the E5 plus 1 talks that have regrettably so far not yielded sufficient progress.

In conclusion, the Foreign Secretary’s statement comes at a time of almost unprecedented uncertainty across the middle east and north Africa. This transformative time of upheaval, revolution and conflict poses fundamental questions not just for the Foreign Secretary, but for policy makers across the region. That should therefore add to the urgency of efforts being made to try to resolve the ongoing and apparently intractable conflicts that have for too long defined the history of the region.

Mr Hague: I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. On most if not all these subjects, there is strong agreement across the Floor of the House.

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I absolutely agree with the way in which the right hon. Gentleman put the Opposition’s attitude on Egypt. What has happened may be a setback for democracy, but it need not be an irreversible trend. That is absolutely right. He is right to point out that some parties in Egypt have not agreed to the timetable of parliamentary and presidential elections set out by the new president in the constitutional declaration. In fact, worryingly, most of them have not agreed, including the National Salvation Front, which was one of the prime movers behind last week’s events. There were widespread objections to the details of the announcement. As he said, this cannot be resolved in any other way than an inclusive legitimate process inside Egypt. We therefore call on all parties to do that.

It would be a terrible mistake for the authorities in Egypt to act in a way that drives the Muslim Brotherhood, or any other legitimate party, out of democratic politics. That mistake must be avoided at all costs. It would also be a mistake, however, for the Muslim Brotherhood to now refuse, under all circumstances, to take part in democratic politics in the months and years ahead. All nations who hold dear the stability and future of Egypt, as we do, have to encourage people, whether the Muslim Brotherhood or the new authorities, to resolve these differences and counsel against making those mistakes. Part of that is about releasing prisoners. I agree about that and I made that point to the acting Foreign Minister of Egypt. The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my hon. Friend the Member for North East Bedfordshire, pursued the point with the Egyptian ambassador just this morning. Prisoners should be released unless criminal charges are to be laid. The holding of prisoners for political purposes after these events does not help the process.

The right hon. Gentleman asked about the Deauville partnership. I am happy to provide to him, or to the Library, more details. The $38 billion was not a fund, but the total financing from all global institutions available to the countries of the region if and when they pursue economic policies that give them access to it. One of the problems of the outgoing Government in Egypt was that they did not agree an IMF programme, and therefore did not win international financial support. The part of the Deauville partnership that involves funds that can be given away is much smaller. We have been determined, during our presidency of the G8, to make a tangible difference, and this year the Deauville partnership transition fund has started to deliver practical support. Projects of more than $100 million have been approved, and these principally support the development of small and medium-sized enterprises. This is the part that is a fund, but potential international financing is vastly greater, if the right economic reforms are undertaken.

I welcome the right hon. Gentleman’s comments on Iran. Again, I think there is strong agreement across the House and support for a further round of E3 plus 3 negotiations with its new Government. There is also strong agreement on the middle east peace process. I have set out in the House previously that we have to be ready, in the UK and in other European countries, once negotiations get going, to offer incentives or even disincentives at times during the negotiations for Israelis and Palestinians to try to make them a success, working with the United States. First, we have to get the negotiations going. We have been urging Israeli and Palestinian

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leaders to take the opportunity to work with John Kerry, stressing that there is no alternative. No one other than the United States has the necessary authority to bring Israel to the necessary agreements, to enter negotiations and make a success of them. Working with John Kerry is essential, and we await further announcements in the coming weeks.

On Syria and a date for Geneva, there is no date at the moment. After the G8, a trilateral meeting was held between the US, Russia and the UN in Geneva on 25 June, which again did not produce a date. The fundamental problem is that while the regime is engaged in military offences, as it is now in Homs, it does not have an incentive to come to meaningful negotiations, and neither is the opposition in a frame of mind to come to negotiations. Those military offences are making it harder for either party to come to Geneva.

Jordan was not an omission from my statement—I referred to our humanitarian assistance. I have also referred in the past to the other assistance we are giving Jordan. We have sent military equipment to help the Jordanian armed forces operate on the border, collecting refugees and bringing them to refugee camps. We have £1.5 million going to Jordan through our Arab Partnership fund to support civil society. We are in regular contact with Jordan. I spoke to the Jordanian Foreign Minister earlier this week, in particular to thank him for Jordan’s assistance with the recent mutual legal assistance treaty. I also made it clear to him that we are happy to give further assistance from the UK, if the Jordanians ask for it.

Sir Peter Tapsell (Louth and Horncastle) (Con): On Egypt, may I acquaint my right hon. Friend with the news that when I arrived as a national serviceman in the charming town of Suez 64 years ago, its townspeople were busy rioting against the Wafd party. Sixty-four years from now, I have little doubt that the Egyptian people will still be rioting, so may I make the constructive suggestion to the Foreign Secretary that there is little he can do to help, except by not sending in British troops to restore order?

Mr Hague: I can assure my right hon. Friend that I have no plans to send in British troops to restore order. Only once since the second world war have we sent British troops into Egypt. I recall that he was once an election assistant to Anthony Eden.

Sir Peter Tapsell: That bears out the wisdom of my advice.

Mr Hague: It does indeed bear out the wisdom of experience.

We will not be sending in troops. We must stress that the vast majority of what we are calling for can only be brought about by Egyptians—we must not pretend anything else—but what we and other countries say does matter; how we are prepared to help in the future matters. We have to make those things clear to the Egyptians, even though it certainly does not involve the deployment of British troops.

Mr Speaker: It is clear that the Foreign Secretary is familiar with the right hon. Gentleman’s CV in 1955, as well as, I am sure, with his activities 64 years ago.

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Mr Jack Straw (Blackburn) (Lab): Contrary to the distinguished, but dismal prognosis of the Father of the House, would the Secretary of State accept that across Africa remarkable progress has been made in recent decades to produce democracies? One thing that will set that back is if the west appears to be equivocal about the results of elections when it does not approve of those who are elected. This was a military coup, and we will gain nothing—indeed, we will undermine our influence—if we do not accept that. If we do not accept it, we will simply feed those extremists on the Islamic side who believe that we regard democracy as an optional extra only when those elected are people of whom we approve.

Mr Hague: I have a lot of sympathy with those points. Half of the 10 fastest-growing economies in the world are now in Africa. There is economic success, and many democracies are becoming established, which is to be welcomed and respected. That is why I was clear last Wednesday night that the United Kingdom does not support military interventions in democratic politics. We should always be prepared to state that clearly, I think, and to state what I just said in response to the shadow Foreign Secretary: that the Muslim Brotherhood must not be driven out of democratic politics in Egypt, or any other country. I think that across the House we can uphold those things very strongly.

Martin Horwood (Cheltenham) (LD): I welcome the Foreign Secretary’s statement. The faltering peace process remains the best hope for the people of Syria. If, as he says, Iran is implicated in that conflict, is it not now essential to reach out to the new regime of Dr Rouhani and involve Iran in the Syrian peace process, including Geneva 2? Doing otherwise is beginning to look unhelpfully dogmatic.

Mr Hague: The hon. Gentleman is right about the importance of Iran, given the scale of its intervention in Syria. The extent to which it can be involved in a peace process will be heavily up to Iran, however; it has not, hitherto, expressed support for the outcome of last year’s Geneva conference and the creation of a transitional Government with full executive authority. Without agreeing with that, it is very hard to see how a success can be made of participation in negotiations over the coming months. Of course, however, those negotiations have to be conducted in circumstances that will produce the maximum success, and a judgment about how Iran can be involved must be guided by that objective.

Mr Peter Hain (Neath) (Lab): I welcome the Foreign Secretary’s commitment that any decision either to arm the opposition or to intervene militarily will be put to the House on a substantive motion, but does he intend that to happen not, as with Libya, after the decision has been activated, but before?

Mr Hague: That is clearly the intention of what I said, although I do not think it right to compare this situation with Libya or ever to give a 100% guarantee. After all, in Libya we acted very urgently to save lives; armoured columns were advancing on Benghazi. We could not have taken that action with France had we had to wait however many hours to call the House together. It is not possible to give 100% guarantees, but

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on a question such as the supply of arms to someone else in world, it is possible to anticipate that and therefore to debate it in advance.

Nicholas Soames (Mid Sussex) (Con): Does my right hon. Friend agree that although, as the former Foreign Secretary said, the prognosis in Egypt is gloomy, it was always going to take generations to fix the difficult social and political situation there? Does he also agree that, contrary to what the Father of the House said, this country has a major role to play in assisting many countries in the middle east with governance, improving opportunities and aspirations for their people and perhaps training young people so that they can get what everyone all over the world wants, which is jobs and some security?

Mr Hague: My right hon. Friend is absolutely right that we have a big role to play, and the European Union, using its collective economic weight, potentially has a big role to play as well. As I said earlier, although we must never pretend that these matters can be sorted out by anybody other than Egyptians, we must not understate what we can do to assist. After all, British companies are the biggest investors in Egypt, and there are myriad family, business and personal connections between the people of Egypt and the people of the United Kingdom. We must not understate our influence, therefore; what we do can help, and what we say matters.

Helen Goodman (Bishop Auckland) (Lab): My right hon. Friend the Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire South (Mr Alexander), the Foreign Secretary and President Obama all expressed regret at the military intervention in Egypt, but the special envoy for the Quartet on the middle east suggested that it was inevitable, that they had no alternative. I realise that the Foreign Secretary has been very busy, but has he had an opportunity to discuss those remarks with the special envoy?

Mr Hague: The special envoy, the former Prime Minister from the hon. Lady’s party, does not have to clear with the Foreign Secretary of the day everything he says. I am not sure he would ever have cleared it with the Foreign Secretary of his own Government—perhaps the right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr Straw) can tell us—and he certainly does not clear it with the Foreign Secretary of the next Government, who are opposing parties to his. That would be hoping for too much. I put things differently from him, as she noted—

Mr Straw: So did I.

Mr Hague: So did the right hon. Gentleman, and so did several others from time to time.

We have to acknowledge that there was enormous dissatisfaction in Egypt with the record of the Government and therefore that what happened last week was very popular in Egypt. Nevertheless, we should be clear, as we discussed a few moments ago, that we cannot support military interventions in democratic processes.

Richard Ottaway (Croydon South) (Con): The lesson emerging from the middle east is that leaders who introduce reform are grudgingly winning the respect of their people, and no one is trying harder on this than the King of Jordan, who is busting a gut to stay ahead

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of the curve. Will the Foreign Secretary assure me that he is doing everything he can to help the King introduce the constitutional monarchy that he is proposing, and does he agree that, ironically and unexpectedly, monarchs are emerging as beacons of stability in the region?

Mr Hague: My hon. Friend makes a good point: it has turned out that monarchs enjoy greater legitimacy with their populations than many alternative Heads of State, which is always a thing to remember—it is perhaps the lesson of our history in the United Kingdom as well. We are seeing very sincere, very substantial reform programmes put forward by the King of Jordan, and also overseen by the King of Morocco. We discuss these things regularly with His Majesty the King of Jordan; I discussed them with him when he was in the UK a couple of weeks ago. We are always ready to assist with the advice, expertise and assistance I have described. There is no cap on the amount of advice, expertise or assistance we can give, if requested.

Angus Robertson (Moray) (SNP): Like many others, I am really worried that the message is going out to the moderate Muslim world that the west is standing by and watching the military overthrow of a democratically elected Government. The Foreign Secretary’s colleague in Turkey, Ahmet Davutoglu, has said:

“It is unacceptable for a government, which has come to power through democratic elections, to be toppled through illicit means and even more, a military coup.”

The Foreign Secretary knows that language matters in these circumstances. Will he join his Turkish colleague in recognising that this has been a military coup, and use that language?

Mr Hague: I have already done that in some of the interviews that I have given and made it clear. I have also discussed the issue in detail with my colleague, Ahmet Davutoglu, who is extremely concerned about it. I simply add the rider that we also have to understand that it was a popular intervention or coup—however we want to describe it. That does not mean that that is the right way to proceed, but it does mean that we have to think about and give good counsel on how the various parties work together in Egypt now. Whatever happens and whatever the opinion in the rest of the world, what has happened is not going to be reversed by military intervention, so however great our disapproval, we now have to encourage all concerned in Egypt into democratic processes—a constitution agreed by consensus, protecting human rights, making the economic progress that the country desperately needs.

Dr Julian Lewis (New Forest East) (Con): May I warmly welcome the assurance that the Foreign Secretary has given that no lethal support will be supplied to the Syrian opposition without a prior vote in Parliament, as I welcome a similar assurance previously given by the Leader of the House, of which I was not aware until recently? However, may I remind the Foreign Secretary that, by coincidence, tomorrow we have a debate led by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Basildon and Billericay (Mr Baron) on that very subject? May we therefore presume that if the House divides tomorrow, Ministers will be voting for the motion, rather than just sitting on their hands?

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Mr Hague: My hon. Friend may find that most Ministers are elsewhere tomorrow, so I am unable to say what most of them will do, but the Government have made their position clear, and the House is able to make its position clear as well. The Government having already done so, we do not see the need to vote for—or, in this case, against—a motion of that kind.

Sir Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Gorton) (Lab): Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the continual, covert and creeping redefinition of borders by the Israelis, whereby, for example, one family are allowed to live in their house because the house is defined as being in the west bank, but not to use the balcony because it is defined as being in Jerusalem, while another family are allowed to live in their house, but not to use the toilet because the toilet is defined as being not in the west bank but in Jerusalem? Does he agree that this continual, tyrannical oppression, which makes people’s daily lives an utter misery, is not conducive to any kind of peace negotiations that will result in freedom for the Palestinians and a secure Israel?

Mr Hague: It is the advance of settlements on occupied land that makes the return to negotiations in the middle east peace process so urgent. Those settlements are illegal, as well as creating many anomalies, including the kind that the right hon. Gentleman describes. On my recent visit to the west bank, I visited families whose homes had been demolished. I went to see the E1 area, which is of enormous importance in determining whether a viable, contiguous Palestinian state can be created. I think our views in this House on this issue are well expressed, and that is how we have also expressed them at the United Nations Security Council, which underlines the urgency of getting both parties into negotiations.

Bob Stewart (Beckenham) (Con): What hopes does my right hon. Friend have that the Syrian opposition, especially the al-Nusra Front, can achieve its aim of providing a “free, democratic and pluralistic” Syria that defends the rights of all Syrians after the demise of the Assad regime?

Mr Hague: We cannot look to the al-Nusra Front to provide a free, democratic or pluralistic Syria. There are extremist forces, but they are not the majority of people who are fighting for the opposition and certainly not of the people who simply want to see peace, dignity and prosperity for their country and a change of Government in Damascus. I think my hon. Friend should be able to trust the sincerity of the National Coalition, now with its expanded membership and new leadership, which includes many secular figures and minorities from across Syria. I have found in all my meetings with them that their commitment to a democratic, non-sectarian Syria is credible and sincere.

Richard Burden (Birmingham, Northfield) (Lab): As a secular, western politician, my instinctive sympathies were obviously with the people in Tahrir square, both in 2011 and recently. However, does the Foreign Secretary agree that it is all the more important that we reject the strictures of those who say that Islamic politics is one dimensional, that the Muslim Brotherhood are the same as jihadis and that there are not even divisions in the Muslim Brotherhood? I support him in saying that if

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we say to Islamists who have turned to democracy that there is no place for them on that road, we commit a very serious error.

Mr Hague: I agree with that absolutely, and it was well put by the hon. Gentleman. That will be important not only in Egypt, but in Libya, Tunisia and many other countries as well. It is important to have a sophisticated enough understanding to see that there are many, many different shades of opinion. We should be clear enough in our principles to welcome participation in democratic procedures and to uphold those over time, so I agree with him.

Sir Bob Russell (Colchester) (LD): Britain has always condemned ethnic cleansing, wherever it takes place around the world. Will the Foreign Secretary therefore condemn the Israeli Parliament for its vote to evict 40,000 Bedouin from their ancestral homelands?

Mr Hague: We do not agree with decisions about removals of Bedouin people. Indeed, on my recent visit to the occupied territories, I also visited a Bedouin encampment—to illustrate this point—and I met some of the Bedouin. Their original land was in the Negev desert; they have since moved into areas of the west bank. We want to see those people—this is one of the reasons we want to see the middle east peace process taken forward—have their own clear rights and their own places where they can live. [Interruption.] I am not going to add further language to what the Government have said at this delicate time in bringing the peace negotiations about, but I think my hon. Friend can see very clearly where we stand.

Andrew Gwynne (Denton and Reddish) (Lab): The Foreign Secretary was right to express his concerns about the involvement of Hezbollah in the Syrian conflict and elsewhere across the middle east. However, given that investigations in Bulgaria and Cyprus have uncovered evidence of Hezbollah activity in Europe, what conversations is he having with his EU counterparts about the proscription of Hezbollah in the European Union?

Mr Hague: I have been having a lot of conversations about that. There have been some differences of view around the EU, but I think we have made some progress on it. There will be further discussions this month—we are coming up to a meeting of EU Foreign Ministers in 12 days’ time. I cannot say that the issue will be resolved then, but there will be further discussions in or around that meeting. I will continue to advocate the designation of the military wing of Hezbollah. There has to be a clear consequence and a clear price exacted by European countries for terrorist acts on European soil.

Rehman Chishti (Gillingham and Rainham) (Con): On Syria, the Secretary of State will be aware of paragraph 87 of the G8 communiqué, which made it quite clear that all the countries were committed to supporting a UN mission to Syria to see whether chemical weapons had been used. How far away are we from having that mission in Syria? Has Russia, having been party to that communiqué, made a representation to the Syrian authorities to allow that mission to go ahead? Finally, when there is a mission and a finding, does the Foreign

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Secretary understand whether Russia, having been party to the process, will accept the findings of that report and any further action to be proposed by the United Nations?

Mr Hague: My hon. Friend raises an important point. We continue to press for the United Nations mission to have access to all the necessary places in Syria, in order to make the evaluation about the alleged use of chemical weapons. As we have said, we have certainly seen substantial evidence of their use by the regime. The Assad regime has not given permission for access to the relevant places, so at the moment that mission is stalled. Yes, we have discussed that, and my hon. Friend is right to say that important language was used at the G8 on this matter. We have been discussing with Russia and others on the United Nations Security Council how to proceed on this, and we will continue to ask for Russia’s help to ensure that there can be access to the relevant places.

Mr Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): Does the Foreign Secretary agree that, in a region in turmoil, the biggest single threat to world peace is Iran’s potential development of a nuclear weapon? It is widely accepted that Iran has enriched uranium beyond the 3.5% necessary for civilian nuclear use. What knowledge does he have that Iran could be developing a plan B involving plutonium at its Arak nuclear facility, the heavy water section of which has been off limits to inspectors for the past 18 months?

Mr Hague: My hon. Friend is also right to raise this matter. Great concern has been expressed, including by

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the International Atomic Energy Authority, about the heavy water plant at Arak. That is one of the aspects of Iran’s nuclear programme to which the IAEA wants greater access. The President-elect, Mr Rouhani, has said that he is committed to transparency in Iran’s nuclear programme. One way to demonstrate that would be to be transparent about this issue; otherwise, the world will become increasingly alarmed in exactly the way that my hon. Friend has described.

Roger Williams (Brecon and Radnorshire) (LD): The sooner Egypt is able to restore stability and democracy, the sooner it will be able to exert a positive influence in the middle east. Does the Secretary of State therefore agree that, while we disapprove of the military intervention, now is not the time for the UK or any other nation to withdraw aid and support, as the Egyptians try to resolve their difficulties?

Mr Hague: That is right; we will not withdraw from the Arab Partnership work that we are doing with Egypt and other countries, for example. However, reforming the Egyptian economy, reinforcing the rule of law, tackling corruption and making it more attractive for international companies to invest in Egypt, as well as agreeing a programme with the IMF, would allow a great deal more assistance to flow to Egypt. Egypt has had financial support from Qatar, and has now apparently been offered financial support from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, but if it is to build a sustainable economy and get more assistance from the rest of the world, it needs to put its own economic house in order.

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Points of Order

2.12 pm

Fiona O’Donnell (East Lothian) (Lab): On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I hope that the Foreign Secretary will stay in the Chamber for this point of order. I think that you will agree that we had the most heated and emotional Prime Minister’s questions of the Session this afternoon. The emotion might carry us all along, but there are lines that you insist we must not cross. It has been reported by those who were present, by people watching at home and by the press that the Foreign Secretary, in response to a question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun (Cathy Jamieson), twice shouted the words “stupid woman”. I know the Foreign Secretary to be a man who has done great good in his job, and I would hope that, if this report is true, he is already regretting those comments. Would it be appropriate, Mr Speaker, for you to give him an opportunity now to apologise, to ensure that his reputation and that of this place is not damaged by such behaviour?

Mr Speaker: I note the hon. Lady’s point of order. The Foreign Secretary is present, and he is entitled to respond if he wishes to do so, but he is not obliged to do so.

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr William Hague): Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. I mutter many things in this House; others shout them rather louder than I do. I mutter many things under my breath, but I never intend any offence to any other hon. Member.

Mr Speaker: I note what the right hon. Gentleman has said, and I thank him for it. We will leave that there for today.

Paul Flynn (Newport West) (Lab): On a point of order, Mr Speaker. In spite of your valiant and heroic efforts to improve the conduct in the Chamber and the standing of Parliament outside this place, we hit a new low today. Prime Minister’s Question Time was an unedifying spectacle of distortion, evasion and obfuscation. May I again suggest that you hold a seminar, especially for the Prime Minister, in order to explain the precise meaning of the words “question” and “answer”, and the need for a link between the two?

Mr Speaker: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his point of order. Today, it will suffice for me to say that I thought it was a very unedifying spectacle. It was as noisy as, if not more noisy than, I have ever known it. I ask right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the Chamber, as I have done many times over the years, to give some thought to the way in which our proceedings are regarded by the people outside this House whose support we seek and whom we are here to represent. Frankly, the behaviour of a very large number of people was poor, as the hon. Gentleman has indicated. Rather than dwelling on it further today, let us aspire, and take steps at all levels, to ensure that it improves in subsequent weeks. That is a responsibility of every right hon. and hon. Member, from the person most recently arrived to the longest serving Member,

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and from those who serve in a Back-Bench capacity to those who serve at the highest level, either in government or in opposition.

Mr Nigel Dodds (Belfast North) (DUP): On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I have given the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland notice that I will be raising this point of order. Earlier today in Northern Ireland questions, I raised an issue about what she would be doing as a result of the outrageous and scandalous decision last night of the Parades Commission in Northern Ireland. That decision is causing enormous pain and tension to rise in north Belfast and across the Province, and there is the potential for severe trouble on our streets. In replying to my question, the Secretary of State did not address the point about her powers in relation to an application by the Chief Constable. I have to say, Mr Speaker, that in my view that was deliberately deceptive. It was absolutely outrageous, and it will not go down well with the people back home. The Secretary of State has a responsibility to do something about the outrageous decisions of the Parades Commission in Northern Ireland—

Mr Speaker: Order.

Mr Dodds: And unless she acts, there will be difficulties ahead.

Mr Speaker: Order. I thank the right hon. Gentleman. It is only with great hesitation that I interrupt him, because he is a senior and respected Member of the House. However, while giving expression to his views, he must not use the words “deliberately deceptive”. He must not use those words. He is a man of great intelligence and vocabulary, and I must ask him to use an alternative formulation—or, at any rate, to withdraw those words.

Mr Dodds: The Secretary of State is here, and I will wait to see whether she wants to say anything, then make a judgment on the matter—

Mr Speaker: Order. No, no; I cannot have a conditional withdrawal from the right hon. Gentleman. It is open to the Secretary of State to come to the Dispatch Box if she so wishes, and I will afford her that opportunity, but those words must be considered in their own terms. I am not cavilling at anything else that the right hon. Gentleman has said, but I must ask him to withdraw those words. It is very clear that they are disorderly, and I must ask him to withdraw them and to use alternative words—or to use no alternative words but still to withdraw them.

Mr Dodds: Mr Speaker, the situation in Northern Ireland today is extremely difficult and tense, and I have to say that people are very concerned about what might happen. For the Secretary of State to spend an entire Question Time without referring to her powers in this matter is unforgiveable, and it cannot be glossed over.

Mr Speaker: Order. I do not seek to gloss over anything, and I am sure that the Secretary of State does not, but I must say to the hon. Gentleman with great courtesy that he has now twice failed to withdraw the words that were disorderly, which I have most courteously asked him to withdraw. I must warn the right hon.

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Gentleman—it pains me to do this—that if he persists in his refusal to comply with my order to withdraw, I shall be compelled to name him, which I do not wish to do. I please ask the right hon. Gentleman, who has made his point, to which the Secretary of State will have an opportunity to reply if she wishes, simply to take back those particular words. I am not asking him to withdraw his whole contribution; he must withdraw the words “deliberately deceptive”. It is not appropriate to accuse any Member of this House of seeking deliberately to deceive or mislead it. The right hon. Gentleman will please withdraw those words now.

Mr Dodds: Mr Speaker, I have yet to hear any explanation from the Secretary of State as to why that glaring omission was made in relation to these important matters. I feel that on a matter of such import and importance, I am reluctantly not able to comply on this occasion. I stand over what I said, and I have to say that the people of Northern Ireland are in a very serious position indeed. The Secretary of State needs to do something to intervene in this matter, and she needs to do it quickly.

Mr Speaker: I made it clear, and I hope the House will accept that it was appropriate to do so, but I cannot engage in negotiation with colleagues whereby they agree to withdraw something if someone else does or does not do something. Therefore, very regretfully, after a display, I hope, of some patience and the proffering to the right hon. Gentleman of a number of opportunities to make good, I am forced to act.

The Speaker ordered Mr Dodds, Member for Belfast North, to withdraw immediately from the House during the remainder of this day’s sitting (Standing Order No. 43), and the Member withdrew accordingly.

Mr Speaker: The Secretary of State was referred to several times in those comments, so I simply extend to the Secretary of State what I think is the courtesy of inviting her to comment if she wishes to do so, but she is under no obligation to do so.

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mrs Theresa Villiers): I am happy to do so. I fully appreciate the strength of feeling of the right hon. Member for Belfast North (Mr Dodds), given the involvement of his constituency in the events of the forthcoming weekend. He will appreciate from the conversation that he and I had this morning that any powers I have to intervene to review the decision of the Parades Commission are triggered only as a result of an application by the Chief

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Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, and I have not received such an application. If I did so, I would of course consider the exercise of my powers with the greatest care.

Mr Speaker: I am extremely grateful to the Secretary of State.

Mr Gregory Campbell (East Londonderry) (DUP): Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr Speaker: The hon. Gentleman is certainly a man of integrity, so I am happy to hear his point and judge whether it is legitimate to continue with it.

Mr Campbell: Given what has happened and in the light of the Secretary of State’s response, I wondered whether, within the context of the next 48 hours, she will ensure that the extreme frustration that has been exhibited today—I do not in any way challenge your ruling, Mr Speaker—is not played out on the streets of Belfast and Northern Ireland on Friday. We must maintain the rule of law and respect the integrity of all those involved in talks so that we can try to dissolve and devolve the position in Northern Ireland to a problem-solving exercise in which violence is avoided and people respect each other’s rights.

Mr Speaker: This is a very sensitive week leading up to 12 July, and I think that we are all conscious of, and respectful towards, that fact. The hon. Gentleman’s point is on the record, and I know that he will not take offence if I say that it is not a point of order for the Chair. He has registered his concerns and they have been noted.

If the point of order appetite has now been satisfied, perhaps we can proceed with the presentation of a Bill.

Bill Presented

Local Government (Miscellaneous provisions) Act 1982 (Amendment) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Mr Dan Rogerson, supported by Martin Caton, presented a Bill to amend the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982 to require those providing a service from a fixed pitch in a designated area to apply for a licence to trade; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 6 September, and to be printed (Bill 89).

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Motion for leave to bring in a Bill (Standing Order No. 23)

2.24 pm

Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): I beg to move,

That leave be given to bring in a Bill to require the Secretary of State to take steps to eradicate slavery; and for connected purposes.

I must make it clear right from the beginning that I am not talking about being a Back-Bench Tory Member under the current whipping system. That is not what I mean by modern-day slavery, which is a much more serious offence.

My Bill would include, subject to debate, scrutiny and change in this House, the following provisions. First, it would include the consolidation and simplification of existing legislation under one Act. At present, trafficking offences are contained in three separate pieces of legislation: the Sexual Offences Act 2003, the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants, etc.) Act 2004, and the Coroners and Justice Act 2009. This makes the legislation contrasting rather than complementary. It also serves to maintain the widely held misunderstanding of modem slavery as primarily an immigration—not a criminal—problem. Bringing all modem slavery and human trafficking offences under one Act would address the current confusion and misunderstanding in the justice system. Moreover, the symbolic message of enacting these provisions under the title “Modem Slavery Act” would itself help to raise the profile of modem slavery and send a clear message, domestically and internationally, that the UK takes this issue very seriously.

Secondly, I propose legislation for an “Anti-Slavery Rapporteur”. As an anti-EU Tory, of course, I could not possibly bring myself to call it that, so why do we not suggest “Commissioner” instead? Modelled on the Children’s Commissioner for England, the Anti-Slavery Commissioner would be statutorily obliged and empowered to represent the interests of victims of modem slavery, and in doing so, would fulfil the role of “critical friend” to the Government.

At present, the Government maintain that the Inter-Departmental Ministerial Group on Human Trafficking is equivalent to a national rapporteur and therefore fulfils the UK’s obligations in this respect under article 19. However, the group fails in this regard. I would argue that it is not possible for a group of Government Ministers to carry out this role: Ministers have many other competing responsibilities and can devote only a limited amount of time to this issue. The group meets only every six months and is often subject to change at reshuffles. Who knows, by the end of next week, we may have a new set of Ministers to deal with.

In addition, attendance at meetings is less than 50% and at the most recent meeting, apart from the Chairman, only two Ministers were present—a Minister for Wales and a Minister for Scotland—with seven Ministers giving their apologies. An Anti-Slavery Commissioner could replace the Inter-Departmental Ministerial Group, be more effective and cost less money.

Thirdly, the Bill would provide for duties on local authorities for the provision of support to adult and child victims. Imagine that a 25-year-old woman from a

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small village in Moldova has been offered an escape from poverty via a job in the UK working as a waitress, providing a chance to earn some money to send back to her family and provide family members as well as herself with a better quality of life. She arrives in London, but it becomes clear after a while that there never was a legitimate job opportunity. Her “contact” confiscates her passport and locks her in a room where she is beaten and repeatedly raped, and then sold into slavery as a prostitute. She is unable to escape her traffickers. After a few weeks, months, or even years, she is eventually found and rescued by the local police.

The Government currently fund a specialist support programme run by the Salvation Army, which has a network of subcontracted safe shelters. The system of care for adult trafficked victims is very good in the UK—so impressive that the Government have doubled their funding from £1.5 million last year to £3 million this year, despite the austerity. These safe houses offer adult victims the deserved chance to begin a recovery from the horrific mental, physical and emotional damage that they have experienced at the hands of traffickers. These victims have witnessed unimaginable horrors, yet are given an opportunity to be brought back to life.

Now imagine a 15-year-old girl from a small village in Moldova who has been trafficked into the United Kingdom; these stories have the same beginning and middle, but their endings are very different. The girl is enslaved—beaten and raped on a daily basis. She lives in constant fear of her captors, yet is totally dependent on them, with no way to escape.

The police discover the trafficking ring of which the girl is part. She is taken in by the local authority and put into social care as a “missing child”. However, she is given no special care and is not even identified as a victim of trafficking, and the home she is in is not secure. The traffickers know where she is and soon she disappears from care—trafficked back into her living hell, to be beaten and raped once more.

I find it almost impossible to believe that we can stand by and allow such a scandalous situation to continue for one moment longer. We must enact a solution to this outrageous state of affairs in the quickest possible manner. We must address the disparity in care between adult and child victims. We must provide child victims safe and secure homes that will offer them the same level of care and support that adult victims receive. Furthermore, child victims need to be identified and recorded as such by local authorities—a move that would certainly incur no extra cost, but would make a huge difference to the plight of the victims.

Although both the cases I have described are obviously horrific, by the nature of things the magnitude of damage caused to a child victim of trafficking is likely to be significantly greater. It is shameful that we have established, and continue to permit, a system that allows such children to be re-trafficked with such ease. We must learn from the examples of other countries such as the Philippines, which provides safe houses run by local non-governmental organisations and charities, partly funded by the state and designed specifically for the recovery of child victims and their integration back into society.

The fourth purpose of my Bill relates to the non-prosecution of victims. The Court of Appeal recently overturned the convictions of four victims of trafficking

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who had been prosecuted for crimes committed as a result of trafficking. Three were Vietnamese children forced to work in cannabis farms and one was a woman forced into sexual exploitation. Protection rights for victims are not set out in legislation; they are only in Crown Prosecution Service guidance. It is vital that that discrepancy be addressed. My Bill would bring in the presumption that victims of trafficking should not be prosecuted for crimes committed as a result of their being trafficked.

The Bill will also include clauses about several other issues: the return of foreign-national trafficking victims to their country of origin and their safe integration back into society; a duty to trace and confiscate traffickers’ assets; a requirement for large businesses to report on measures that they are taking to eliminate modern slavery from their supply chains; and a requirement for front-line public servants to receive targeted training relating to human trafficking.

There is a general public and political awareness of the horrific nature of modern-day slavery in the UK and across Europe, but it is not at the top of any Government’s political agenda. Although our Prime Minister has done a lot to improve the situation, having brought in a human trafficking strategy, set up an annual report, had a debate in Parliament, opened exhibitions and opened up Downing street, and although we are moving in the right direction, the British Government must be prepared to stand up to the individuals who perpetrate such evil crimes. They must take the lead on this most crucial of issues, as they did almost 200 years ago.

In 1833, the consequences of the Slavery Abolition Act reverberated around the world.

“You may choose to look the other way but you can never again say that you did not know.”

Those were the words of William Wilberforce in May 1789. I commend the Bill to the House.

Question put and agreed to.


That Mr Peter Bone, Angie Bray, Mr Christopher Chope, Tracey Crouch, Mr Philip Hollobone, Jeremy Lefroy, Peter Luff, Fiona Mactaggart, Greg Mulholland, Stephen Phillips, Jim Shannon and Keith Vaz present the Bill.

Mr Peter Bone accordingly presented the Bill.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday, 8 November and to be printed (Bill 90).

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Opposition Day

[Unallotted Day]

Disabled People

Mr Speaker: I advise the House that I have selected the amendment in the name of the Prime Minister.

2.35 pm

Mr Liam Byrne (Birmingham, Hodge Hill) (Lab): I beg to move,

That this House believes that the Government should publish, by October 2013, a cumulative impact assessment of the changes made by the Government that affect disabled people.

Five of my right hon. Friends and I have tabled the words of today’s motion, but the words in our argument were inspired by others and are supported by tens of thousands of people up and down this country.

This afternoon, I pay tribute to Pat Onions and her fellow campaigners, to the authors of the WOW petition and to the thousands of people up and down the country who have supported their campaign and will follow this debate closely. They want to send a message to the Government—the message that we have incorporated in our motion. Today we ask hon. Members on both sides of the House to support us and make sure that the message is heard, not just in the Department for Work and Pensions but in Her Majesty’s Treasury, as clearly as possible.

The Opposition believe that how the Government have systematically ignored and tried to disguise and bury the impact of their reforms on disabled people is a national scandal. Reform that should have been approached with care and finesse has been approached with all the finesse of a bull in a china shop. When people have cried about the combined pain of the changes, the Government’s response has been that of the three wise monkeys: see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. Frankly, we demand better of Her Majesty’s Government.

Mr Gordon Marsden (Blackpool South) (Lab): My right hon. Friend is making his position clear with great power and pugnaciousness. Is it not already clear that the chaos around the work capability assessment and the implementation of the personal independence payment is widespread? In the House last year, I cited dozens of cases of disabled people from my constituency who had awful experiences of revolving assessments. Is it not appalling that so many people are going through that process when almost a third of people are winning their appeals at tribunals?

Mr Byrne: My hon. Friend is absolutely right, and I shall come back to his point slightly later.

The Opposition believe in reform of the benefits system and of support and care for disabled people, but we also believe in one thing more—that fewer, not more, disabled people should live in poverty in this country. During our time in office, we drove down the number of disabled people living in poverty from 40% to about a quarter. That was not an accident; it was because of the most ambitious series of reforms to help disabled people that we have ever seen.

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There was the appointment of the first ever Minister for Disabled People, the Disability Discrimination Act and the Equality and Human Rights Commission. There were great programmes such as Supporting People, the new deal for disabled people, new strategies for disabled children and Valuing People, and, crucially, there was the Equality Act 2010. Poverty in disabled households fell under Labour and now that progress has gone into reverse.

Robert Flello (Stoke-on-Trent South) (Lab): There is a fundamental difference in how the reforms have been heralded in the media, too. When we were in government and we put those reforms through, we did so in a careful and considered way, whereas because of how the current reforms are being pushed through, the media are characterising people in certain ways. A constituent who is on disability benefit for severe mental health problems came to my office the other day with his head in his hands saying, “I know I’m scum. That’s what I read every day. That’s the way I feel I’m treated.”

Mr Byrne: The whole House will have heard my hon. Friend’s powerful story. I am afraid that too often in the past three years we have had not the politics of national unity, but the politics of dividing lines—dividing lines after dividing lines. When has this country ever achieved great things when we have sought to divide one from another? We have only ever achieved great things in this country when we have pulled together, but I am afraid that that is not the policy of reform we see from this Government.

Today we have one third of disabled citizens in our country living in poverty. That proportion has increased every single year this coalition Government have been in power. That is a disgrace, and it is only surpassed by the Government’s attempts to make it worse.

Today I want to set out the great pressures that now confront disabled people and ask, in the words of our motion, that the Government, for the first time, put together

“a cumulative impact assessment of the changes”,

because the Secretary of State has an important duty to fulfil later this year. He has a duty before the autumn statement to set before the Chancellor of the Exchequer the combined concerted impact of the changes he is prosecuting on disabled people. These changes are big and they are well known. They affect the roof over people’s heads, the cash they receive, the care they enjoy, the help for their children and the help for their carers, and, of course, the systems that are currently failing to give disabled people the chance to lift themselves out of poverty by actually going to work.

Let me start with an issue that I know will be much in the news today: the hated bedroom tax. Two thirds of people hit by this tax are disabled. We know that council housing in this country is allocated according to need, and very often disabled people are given accommodation that is suited to their need. They may have a room that is available for a carer or for equipment, but the accommodation they were given was allocated according to need. Now disabled people face a tax on that spare room. Disabled people now face the distress of debt, being torn from their neighbours, and cut off

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from help very often if they are on disability living allowance. This is a cruel and unusual punishment meted out to the most vulnerable in our society, and this Government should drop it, and drop it now.

Kate Green (Stretford and Urmston) (Lab): Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Government knew when they first introduced this tax that it would have this disproportionate and devastating effect on disabled people? Originally they had hoped to exempt them from the tax, but when they worked out how many would be affected, they simply buried their principles in the interests of expediency.

Mr Byrne: That evidence is now becoming well known, and we have had more evidence circulated by great organisations, such as Carers UK today, about the impact this tax is now having on some of the most vulnerable people in our community, including hundreds in the Minister’s constituency.

The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Mr Mark Hoban): Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr Byrne: In a moment. Perhaps when the Minister intervenes he can justify what Carers UK found:

“Three quarters (75%) of carers having to pay the ‘bedroom tax’ are being forced to cut back on essential spending on food, electricity and heating.”

Will the Minister justify that to the House?

Mr Hoban: The Leader of the Opposition has accepted the changes we have made through the spare room subsidy. Is the right hon. Gentleman going against that? Is he going to reverse this policy?

Mr Byrne: It ill behoves the Minister to play word games this afternoon on a policy that is affecting hundreds of people and their carers in his own constituency. What is he saying to carers in his constituency who are having to cut back on food, electricity and heating?

The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mr Iain Duncan Smith): Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr Byrne: In a moment. What is the Minister going to say to councils up and down the country surveyed by Channel 4 for tonight’s broadcast showing that one third of councils are having to deny help to disabled people because the provision of the discretionary housing payment fund is, frankly, insufficient? What is he going to say to those councils and what is he going to say to those disabled people in his own constituency?

Mr Hoban: I am going to be very straight with my constituents about the challenges we face. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will now answer the question I asked him.

Mr Byrne: We believe this policy should be dropped and it should be dropped now. Why? Because this is an iniquitous, unjust policy that is going to cost more than it saves.

Mr Duncan Smith rose

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Mr Byrne: I will give way to the Secretary of State in a moment, but first I want him to respond to this scenario. His own figures show that 660,000 people will be hit by this hated tax. He said when he came to the House that this would save £490 million. Let us assume that 50% of the people who move go into the private rented sector. That is going to cost his Department an extra £25 a week each. Let us assume the rest get another form of social housing. Every single move costs a registered social landlord £850. Then there is the cost of arrears, which RSLs say will double. Then there is £160 million-worth of discretionary housing payment on top. The truth is that if 40% of people move, this could well cost our country £580 million, which is £100 million more than the Secretary of State promised to save. What is his analysis of that? Does he now admit this will cost more than it saves?

Mr Duncan Smith: The right hon. Gentleman’s leader said categorically, in terms, that Labour would not reverse the spare room subsidy. [Interruption.] Yes, he has, in an interview. Now, however, the Leader of the Opposition’s spokesman is standing at the Dispatch Box saying Labour will reverse this. That is a commitment to spend £1 billion over two years, rolling out further down the road. That is a spending commitment.

Mr Byrne: The Secretary of State has just refused to deny that this iniquitous policy is going to cost £100 million more than it saves. If he wants to refute that, why is he refusing to give our noble Friends in the other place the detailed model his Department used in order to assess this and come to the conclusion it was going to save £490 million? If he wants to have an argument about whether this does indeed cost more than it saves, he should provide that detailed analysis and those figures.

Stephen Doughty (Cardiff South and Penarth) (Lab/Co-op): My right hon. Friend is making a crucial point about the cost of the bedroom tax, and I can provide him with some figures from Cardiff council. Since 1 April there are now 1,176 people in arrears and the council estimates that 900 of them have never been in arrears before. That is going to cost it £175,000 in additional costs, and its arrears bill has risen to £1.2 million, so the idea that this is going to save money is complete fantasy.

Mr Byrne: What is interesting about the Secretary of State’s response is that he cannot defend his Department’s failure, and he cannot defend his own failure of leadership in not giving us a cumulative impact assessment of these cuts because he fears what that will show. He fears it will show that this bedroom tax will cost more than it saves—and it is just one of a number of changes now coming together to hit disabled people, and hit them hard.

Barbara Keeley (Worsley and Eccles South) (Lab): Does my right hon. Friend agree on these two points? First, this dreadful tax is going to cost more than it saves. It is hitting 2,600 households in my constituency, and City West Housing is expecting arrears of at least £1 million this year. Even worse than that is the effect on choice and dignity: week in and week out, I am now seeing cases in which disabled people have to explain why they cannot sleep in the same bedroom as their carers. They are being assessed on the point of “Why

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can you not sleep in the same bedroom?” Last week I had a letter about some constituents which stated, “We see no reason why you cannot sleep in the same bedroom.” Case studies that Carers UK has provided to Members today, however, explain why for people with disabilities there is very often a really good reason why the carer cannot sleep in the same room or the same bed as the person they are caring for.

Mr Byrne: Absolutely, and that is why the Secretary of State must produce the impact assessment. All of us are now meeting people who are under such pressure that they are creating more cost elsewhere in the system. I will probably remember for ever the man I met recently in Redcar. The great Anna Turley introduced us, and this is what was said: “Yes, he has a spare room, and do you know what he puts in it? He puts equipment to help him with renal failure.” Now, because he is having to move, that opportunity for home care is disappearing, and the NHS is saying to him “We’re going to have to take you to and from hospital in an ambulance every single day.” That is not a cost saving for the NHS. That is a new cost. It is a straight cost jump from a failure of policy from this Government.

Pete Wishart (Perth and North Perthshire) (SNP): I just wish to get this clear, so that there is no uncertainty: it is now the policy of a future Labour Government to reverse the bedroom tax. I, like the Secretary of State, was under the impression that the Leader of the Opposition had said that that was not the case. So will the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill (Mr Byrne) provide clarification? Will the Labour party, if elected, abolish the bedroom tax?

Mr Byrne: We believe that the bedroom tax should be dropped, and dropped today, because the evidence is mounting that it is going to cost more than it saves. [Interruption.]

Mr Speaker: Order. These points must be allowed to come out in debate, and right hon. and hon. Members can speak on their feet but not from their seats.

Mr Byrne: I am grateful to you, Mr Speaker.

We have to deal with the issue of the bedroom tax and then the issue of the cash benefits—

Mr Duncan Smith: Will right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr Byrne: I am not going to give way to the Secretary of State—

Mr Duncan Smith: He has now just said—

Mr Speaker: Order. We must proceed, on both sides, according to established rules of debate, which include taking interventions or choosing not to do so. A Member cannot intervene, however strongly he or she feels, if the person who has the Floor declines to give way.

Mr Byrne: If the Secretary of State is so passionate about speaking, he should be answering for the Minister this afternoon instead of intervening from a sedentary position.

Mr Duncan Smith rose

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Mr Byrne: I will give way to the Secretary of State in a moment, because I have a number of other points I want him to answer. The whole House would wish that he, and not the Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions, the hon. Member for Fareham (Mr Hoban), was answering the debate, because it is his failure of leadership at the Department for Work and Pensions that means that disabled people in this country are in such trouble today.

Let me deal with the cash commitments that we need to move on to. The Secretary of State needs to listen to this, because he cannot pursue this agenda of denial right the way through this afternoon; the power of hon. Members’ contributions demands to be listened to. Let us just consider contributory employment and support allowance, a benefit that people have paid into for years. The Conservative party and, in particular, the Secretary of State, have never believed in the principle of contributory benefits. By the end of this Parliament, such benefits will be no more than a rounding error; 280,000 former workers will by 2014 have completely lost their entitlement to support worth £100 a week—thank heavens we won an exemption for cancer patients. The truth is that those with mental health conditions and stroke sufferers will be very hard hit by this change.

Let us then consider the idea that disability living allowance should be abolished and replaced by the personal independence payment. We believe that reform is important, and we welcome the Secretary of State’s more sensible roll-out plan, but surely it is wrong to take away someone’s DLA without even a passing glance at whether the removal of that benefit will push someone out of work, push them into the NHS or cause a carer to have to give up a job. We are talking about important safeguards that should have been written into the reform of DLA. And we now have the lunacy of a Government forced to consult on issues such as the 20-metre rule after—not before—they introduce the regulations, because they could not organise things properly. It is an utter shambles.

We welcome the idea of strong social care. I wish to pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Worsley and Eccles South (Barbara Keeley) for the work that she has done and the way in which she has influenced the definition of well-being in the Care Bill, which is passing through the other place. DWP Ministers must know that one third of social care users are disabled adults, and we must avoid changes that take that system backwards rather than forwards.

There will be other changes that affect carers and children. Carers UK tells us that 3 million carers have had to give up work; one in five carers have seen their work badly affected by caring; and four out of 10 fall into debt. Yet, according to the Government’s own figures, botched reform to DLA could see another 10,000 carers lose support. Parents of disabled children will suffer, too. Parents of 100,000 disabled children will suffer from plans for universal credit. I understand from the Secretary of State’s performance before the Select Committee this morning that universal credit is now, after half a billion pounds-worth of spending, going to appear in the grand total of 10 jobcentres from October, which is about 1% of jobcentres. That is a tremendous success for the Secretary of State, topped only by his success in giving us a Work programme that is worse than doing nothing.

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Families with disabled children currently receive an extra £54 per week from child tax credit, but that will be reduced by half when universal credit is introduced, which means a loss of about £1,400 a year for a family with a disabled child—or £22,000 over the course of a lifetime. The Prime Minister has told the House that

“we are not cutting benefits for disabled children.”—[Official Report, 14 December 2011; Vol. 537, c. 793.]

I think Channel 4 FactCheck got it right when it said that

“the dial points pretty firmly to fiction on this one”.

The tragedy is that so many disabled people want to work, want to get themselves out of poverty, and the Government will not help. A single person on disability benefits will be under the poverty line by about £600 a year. Even three hours’ work a week lifts a disabled person above the poverty line, and 30 hours’ work a week lifts them above the poverty line by about £5,000 a year. At the moment the situation is so chaotic that someone going along to a work capability assessment is eight times more likely to end up in a tribunal than in a job. As for the Work programme, words simply fail me. It took some doing, but the Government did it: they have produced a Work programme that is three times worse than doing nothing—and that is on their own figures.

Last year, the Chancellor of the Exchequer found the money to hand out a very nice tax cut—a very large tax cut—to some of Britain’s richest citizens. So this year we want to know: what is the Secretary of State going to ask the Chancellor for on behalf of disabled people? We think we should help him get the pitch right. The only way he can get that down accurately is by bringing forward a cumulative impact assessment of the changes now hitting disabled people. How else will he know what to ask for? How many people are losing their homes? How many are losing their DLA? How many are losing their homes, their DLA and their ESA? How many will lose carer’s allowance on top? And how many more disabled people will fall into poverty as a result of these sweeping changes over the next couple of years? Surely the Secretary of State cannot justify proceeding with these reforms blind. Surely he cannot go into negotiations with the Chancellor later in the year, before the autumn statement, oblivious to what is actually going on.

Gloria De Piero (Ashfield) (Lab): My right hon. Friend may be aware of the work that Mind has done and the fact that about 40% of people applying for ESA are doing so because of a mental health problem. Work capability assessments are just not working, as we have all seen in our constituencies, and they need reforming.

Mr Byrne: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Of course the employment rate among people with a mental health condition is the lowest of all; it is a disgrace and it needs to change. At the moment, however, we do not have a system that actually assesses people’s needs at the same time as we assess what benefits they should be entitled to. There is a complete disconnection at the heart of the system. The point we want to make to the Secretary of State gently this afternoon is that he presides over one of the great Departments of state; about 100,000 civil servants work for him. If this country can organise an Olympic games, help put rockets into space

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and organise complex armed conflict abroad, he ought to be able to work out a cumulative impact assessment of the changes affecting disabled people.

The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions, the hon. Member for Fareham, who has been forced to answer this debate, has, curiously enough, told the House the following:

“The Government regularly produces analysis of the cumulative impact of all coalition changes…The publication of cumulative impacts is a coalition initiative”.—[Official Report, 5 July 2013; Vol. 565, c. 862W.]

Labour Members welcome that. So can we please have a cumulative impact assessment of the changes hitting disabled people?

Mr Jim Cunningham (Coventry South) (Lab): Does my right hon. Friend agree that, historically, the Government party has always been against the welfare state? Successive Conservative Governments have tried to weaken the welfare state by making statements that are not really helpful to those who need it.

Mr Byrne: My hon. Friend is absolutely right about that, and, worst of all, what he describes comes with a nasty and divisive politics to boot.

If the Secretary of State needs any help with this job of producing cumulative impact assessments, plenty is on hand, as luck would have it. Let me read out the list of people who have half done the job for him: Demos, in its “Destination Unknown” pamphlet; Inclusion Scotland; the Campaign For a Fair Society; the Children’s Commissioner; Contact A Family; and The Hardest Hit. All those organisations have been able to produce cumulative impact assessments, and I am sure that if the Secretary of State asked them nicely, they would lend him a hand.

We believe that there must be vital reform in social security in the future, but that there must be a different way of organising reform. Someone in our country registers with the DWP as disabled every three minutes. The morality of this debate is very simple: disability is an issue that could affect any of us and is therefore something that affects us all. We should be learning from reform such as that pioneered by the Australian Labor party through comprehensive disability insurance, where one personal plan sets out a plan of action for benefits, back-to-work support, social care and help from the national health service and where one partnership comes together to deliver it.

I do not know how often the Secretary of State speaks to his opposite number in the Department of Health, but his right hon. Friend is taking through the other place a Care Bill that creates a definition of well-being that includes the idea that someone should be able to go to work and to get training and an education. The DWP is then missing from the rest of the Bill. The local authority and the NHS are obliged to talk to each other, but where is the DWP? Why is it not coming together with local councils and the NHS to deliver change? We should create a “tell us once” approach to collecting information and, crucially, we should transform back-to-work support by giving people the right to take that support in the form of a personal budget. I know the Secretary of State is still evaluating the “right to control” pilots in Barnsley and elsewhere and we look forward to his bringing forward the conclusions from that work.

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Paul Maynard (Blackpool North and Cleveleys) (Con): I am pleased to hear the right hon. Gentleman announce his intention to abolish the spare room subsidy. He also praised to the skies the Australian insurance model that has just been introduced. Is he therefore committing to the payroll tax increases funding that model in Australia? Have we just heard yet another spending commitment?

Mr Byrne: Of course not. We are saying that the idea of introducing holistic care, in the way the hon. Gentleman’s Department of Health colleague implies in the Care Bill, is something the Secretary of State could learn from.

Stephen Doughty: When Lord Freud gave evidence to the Select Committee on Welsh Affairs and was questioned about the mental health impacts on people going through the reforms and the impact they were having on individual lives, he appeared to suggest that few conversations had been had with organisations such as the Samaritans and Mind. That is deeply concerning; does my right hon. Friend agree? A constituent came to me the other week and handed me a letter that said at the end, “I’d rather kill myself and then they will have one less mouth to feed.” That is the daily experience of the people who come to our surgeries.

Mr Byrne: That is the tragedy about which we are all hearing in our constituencies. I am sure that the Minister has heard the same thing from his constituents, because we know that some 890 people could lose their disability living allowance in his constituency. If people are in work and lose their DLA, they will lose some of their advantages in the tax credit system. If they are also hit by the uprating legislation and the bedroom tax and also lose their transitional support under universal credit, it will not be long before they are £5,000 a year worse off. How can we in this country, one of the richest nations on earth, justify giving a huge tax cut to millionaires and then saying to 890 people in the Minister’s constituency that if they want to go to work they might be £5,000 a year worse off? How on earth can the Minister justify that to the House?

The Government are putting some our most vulnerable people in the middle of a labyrinth and, frankly, if we are to succeed as a nation in the future we cannot go on like this. We must draw on every ounce of talent that is available to us in these islands. That is the only way we will become a nation that is firing on all cylinders. Today, we offer the Secretary of State no more than a humble step on the road—something that will help him in his negotiations with the Chancellor before the autumn statement. I hope that it is something he will be able to support. No one will be able to understand why he has set his face against it if he votes against it and leads his troops to vote against it this afternoon. I hope he accepts it and, if he does not, I hope this House will force him to.

3.4 pm

The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Mr Mark Hoban): I beg to move an amendment, to leave out from “House” to the end of the Question and add:

“welcomes the Government’s leadership in furthering the rights of disabled people; recognises the UK as a world leader in disability rights; notes that approximately £50 billion a year is spent on services for disabled people, including adult social services and including an investment of £3.8 billion in health and

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social care services in England to deliver more joined-up services to disabled people; further notes the £350 million allocated by the Government for programmes and support for disabled people to move into and stay in work; and acknowledges the Government’s collective determination to build upon the London 2012 Paralympic Games, and create a legacy which shines a light on the abilities and achievements of disabled people.”.

I thank the Opposition for choosing this subject to discuss today, not least because it gives me an opportunity to remind the House of this Government’s actions to support disabled people and improve people’s lives. We are absolutely committed to supporting disabled people and enabling those who face the greatest barriers to play a full role in society.

The UK is a world leader in rights for disabled people and spends more on disability than Germany, France, Italy, Spain and Japan. We are proud of that history and the Government are spending about £50 billion a year on disabled people and the services that support them, but spending money is not enough. We need to spend that money wisely, and I will set out the reforms we are undertaking to ensure that that happens.

Some of the biggest barriers for disabled people are caused not by money but by prejudice and we have done far more to tackle the prejudices that continue, moving forward society’s understanding and knowledge of disability and disabled people. Our ambition is to enable disabled people to achieve their aspirations and play a full role in society. Our approach has been developed with disabled people and the organisations that represent them because it is important to help with what happens in their lives. The strategy we have developed is set out in the document “Fulfilling Potential—Making it Happen”. It sets out nearly 200 actions across government to ensure that disabled people can realise their aspirations.

I am pleased to say that under this Government disabled people are seeing improved outcomes and reduced inequalities compared with non-disabled people since 2009-10. Figures published last week show improvements for disabled people in educational achievements, the employment rate and the proportion in relative poverty. They also show how inequalities compared with non-disabled people have reduced for GCSE results, for the employment rate, for income poverty for families in which someone is disabled, and in choice and control.

Yasmin Qureshi (Bolton South East) (Lab): I note that the hon. Gentleman expresses sympathy and states that the Government have done a lot for disabled people. We have received a great deal of information from various charities saying that the cumulative impact of all the cuts will affect disabled people more than able-bodied people. The purpose of today’s motion is to ask the Government to carry out an independent evaluation of the fact that the changes will affect disabled people more. What is wrong with the Government carrying out that assessment?

Mr Hoban: As I shall discuss later, the previous Government did not do it—

Yasmin Qureshi rose

Mr Hoban: The hon. Lady’s intervention was long enough, so I ask her to let me finish making my point. The right hon. Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill

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(Mr Byrne) called on the Treasury to implement this measure; he, of course, was a Treasury Minister in the dying days of the previous Government. Did they do anything about this? No, they did not. It is a bit rich for Labour, having been in government for 13 years, to come forward at this point to call for a cumulative impact assessment. They never did it when they were in government, and they know that they could not do it now either.

Over the past three years, we have maintained financial support for disabled people despite the fiscal pressures, we have refined benefits to support disabled people and help them into work, we are reforming the care system so it better meets the needs of disabled people and the elderly, and we are using the magnificent success of the Paralympics to transform lives.

Our record on spending on disabled people compares well internationally. We continue to spend almost double the OECD average as a percentage of GDP—2.4% compared with about 1.3%. Of the 34 OECD countries, only Norway and Iceland spend more. In the last spending review, published last month, we demonstrated that even in hard economic times when so many budgets have been subject to significant cuts, the Government continue to make the needs of disabled people a priority and to protect funding for disabled people.

As we know that delivering better, joined-up services for the disabled and the elderly shortens hospital stays or, even better, keeps people out of hospital and in their own homes, we are creating a £3.8 billion single budget for health and social care services in England so that people can work together more closely in local areas, based on a plan agreed between the NHS and local authorities. That shared pot includes an additional £2 billion from the NHS and builds on the existing contribution of about £1 billion in 2014-15. To enable the programme to start, we are investing an extra £200 million in 2014-15 to get this work under way. I believe that that working together will benefit both the disabled and the elderly.

Barbara Keeley: Does the Minister not see that the problem is that £2.8 billion has already gone out of social care? The hundreds of millions of pounds of funding that has been moved across is being used as a sticking plaster to prop up existing care packages, and nine out of 10 local authorities are now only meeting substantial care needs. The situation with social care is deteriorating by the week and it is causing issues in the NHS, such as the recent A and E crisis.

Mr Hoban: But reform is needed, too, to make sure that we spend money carefully. We need to think about how we deliver services. That is why joining up care and health in a single budget is vital if we are to tackle problems on the ground, enable local authorities and the health service to work together, and really make progress.

Mr Byrne: The Minister is being characteristically generous in giving way. If he believes what he has just said, will he explain why the duty to co-operate in the Care Bill does not extend to the Department for Work and Pensions? Will he table Government amendments to the Bill to ensure that those duties to co-operate bite on local authorities, the NHS and his Department?

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Mr Hoban: We already co-operate in those areas. We work closely with local authorities and the Department of Health. We do not need a duty of care to enable us to take that approach; we can do that very well at the moment.

We all know that the cost of care is a huge concern for the elderly and for disabled people, and that is why the spending round provides £335 million to local authorities in 2015-16 to prepare for the delivery of the capped costs system from April 2016 and a universal offer of deferred payment agreements from April 2015. That investment begins a programme of reforms to social care funding in England which will mean that no one faces unlimited care costs or is forced to sell their home in their lifetime to pay for residential care.

We want disabled children to have the best possible start in life. The pupil premium is increasing in real terms. That will disproportionately benefit disabled children and young people, and the Government will continue to reform services for those with special educational needs.

It is hard for people to feel included in society if they are excluded from getting around. Railway funding makes provision for the industry to invest up to £100 million from 2014 to 2019 in measures to provide easier access for older and disabled passengers and those with small children. That list of the priorities announced in the spending review demonstrates that any cumulative impact assessment is about not just one area of Government policy, because there is a whole range of ways in which we are taking measures to help disabled people to improve their lives.

Mr Jim Cunningham: Coming back to the £3 billion extra that the Minister mentioned, how will that be distributed, bearing in mind that Coventry city council has to make £28 million in cuts over the next four years? How will he distribute the money to deliver care?

Mr Hoban: The hon. Gentleman knows very well that funding formulas are in place to ensure that the money is allocated. There is an obligation on local authorities not only to make a contribution towards tackling the deficit that we inherited from the previous Government, but to look innovatively at how they deliver services and ensure that we get value for money.

Kate Green: I point out that the previous Government did not conduct a cumulative impact assessment because we were not making so many sweeping changes all at once. However, I want to ask the Minister about his comments on disabled children. Does he accept that the welcome exemption that the Government introduced to allow adults with disabilities an extra room under the bedroom tax for an overnight carer does not apply to children? If he accepts that it does not, will he explain why it does not?

Mr Hoban: The previous Government were asked to supply cumulative impact assessments. [Interruption.] Well, that was the point that the hon. Lady wanted to make. However, that Government recognised that those assessments were too complex and difficult to carry out. The right hon. Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill is smiling; he was Chief Secretary to the Treasury, and he has to recognise that the previous Government failed to do that.

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Mr Byrne: I think that the Minister would sort of accept that we were not introducing some of the biggest cuts to disabled people’s services or benefits for a generation, so the premium on a cumulative impact assessment was not quite as great then as it is now. He said to the House on 5 July that cumulative impact assessments were “a coalition initiative”, and I assume that they are an initiative of which he is proud. If he is so proud of them, why does he not equip himself with one before the Secretary of State goes to see the Chancellor, as he no doubt will, so that he can argue on behalf of disabled people before the autumn statement?

Mr Hoban: I do not want to spoil the excitement that is felt about the later parts of my speech—you are right to pull a wry face, Mr Speaker—but the challenge when one is trying to carry out a cumulative impact assessment that covers a wide range of policy areas for a defined group, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, as he was in the Treasury and in government, is that resources and information are not there to enable people to do it. That is the problem that the last Government faced, and we face the same challenge. Unlike that Government, we have produced a cumulative impact assessment at major fiscal events, but that cannot be disaggregated to the sort of level that the right hon. Gentleman is referring to. He knows that, because he has been through that process.

Mr Byrne: The Minister is very generous to give way once again. Will he tell the House which part of the Demos “Destination Unknown” cumulative impact assessment he disagreed with?

Mr Hoban: Bodies such as the Institute for Fiscal Studies have said that giving that level of detail is impossible and have stepped away from doing so. I know that the right hon. Gentleman has got into trouble on spending plans; he tried to dig himself out of a hole earlier and did not manage to do it, and there is a bit of chaff for him, but let us be very clear: this was a challenge when he was in government, and it remains a challenge.

Let me move on to employment. We all know that work brings self-esteem and dignity. It enables people, whether disabled or able-bodied, to look after themselves and their families. Nearly half of disabled people are in work. Only one in 10 working-age disabled people have never worked, and for those aged over 25 it is only one in 20. If we want to make a sustainable difference, we must do all that we can to help more disabled people who can work to get into mainstream employment and stay there. The spending review allocated £330 million to programmes and support for disabled people or those with a long-term health condition, so that they can move into and stay in work.

Robert Flello: I thank the Minister for giving way; he is being generous in taking interventions. Over the summer, will he get his Department to publish, as an example, the number of people who used to work in the Remploy factory in Stoke-on-Trent who have gone into work in the wider environment, and the number who are now unemployed and likely to be unemployed for the rest of their working life? That facility, to use the Minister’s exact words, provided work experience—not some segregated nonsense, but work experience that

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people enjoyed. I spoke to the people there time and again, and they really enjoyed working there. Will he publish those figures over the summer?

Mr Hoban: I shall give the hon. Gentleman some homework for the summer recess. If he goes back to Thursday’s Hansard and the statement that the Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, my hon. Friend the Member for Wirral West (Esther McVey), made about stage 2 for Remploy factories, he will see that it sets out in detail the work that we have done to get people back into employment, and it gives the aggregate figures. The success in getting people into work after the closure of Remploy factories has outpaced what normally happens with redundancies. What we have seen demonstrates the important support given to get people into work.

This Government remain convinced of the need to maximise the opportunities available to disabled people to enable them to realise their employment aspirations. The principal objectives of our disability employment strategy are to increase the employment rate for disabled people, and to maximise the opportunity for disabled people to realise their employment aspirations and thus achieve greater economic independence. We will publish our strategy later this year. We need to make sure that money is targeted more effectively, to ensure that support continues to be available to those who need it most, that there is a lasting impact and that interventions provide a fair deal for the taxpayer.

Mr Christopher Chope (Christchurch) (Con): My hon. Friend talks about priorities. Will he assure the House that the Government’s priority is to give help to disabled people who are British citizens over those who are not British citizens?

Mr Hoban: What we need to do is make sure that we get more people into work, regardless of their disability, and we must help them into employment. We are particularly supporting those who were Remploy employees to get into work, as well as broader groups. That is our focus; that is exactly what the Government are trying to do. That is why we accepted the recommendation from disability expert Liz Sayce that we should focus support on individuals through services such as Access to Work, rather than through institutions such as Remploy, so that more disabled people can work in mainstream employment.

Next week we will see the first ever disability employment conference, a flagship event funded by Government and business. This will involve more than 600 people in London and five regional locations via video link, with many more watching online. The conference is a unique opportunity for businesses and Government to come together to identify the challenges that others are facing and provide innovative solutions to tap into this underemployed pool of talent and reap the benefits that this can bring. But next week’s conference is just the beginning. Over the next two years we will continue to work with business to bring about a new disability-confident perspective on employment and improve the employment outcomes for disabled people.

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I have no doubt that people want to work, but some are held back by a complex and unwieldy benefit system with weak or even non-existent incentives to work. Our plans for welfare reform will transform the benefits landscape. We have designed a new system with work as its focus—a coherent approach which ensures that people will be better off in work than on benefits. I firmly believe that the vast majority of people want to work and gain greater independence, but we also know that many disabled people who want to work fear the risk of losing their benefits and feel that that is too great a risk of getting into work. By simplifying the benefits system and making sure that work pays, universal credit will remove the financial risks of taking the first steps back into employment, and increase the incentives for working, even for a few hours a week.

Let me deal with some of the points that the right hon. Gentleman made. Universal credit will provide unconditional support to those disabled people who are not expected to do any work. There will be no cash losers in the roll-out of universal credit. People will see their level of benefit protected when they switch over if their circumstances remain the same. Indeed, the average change in income for disabled people under universal credit is an increase of £8 a month.

Universal credit will provide support for carers and improve their opportunities to maintain links with the world of work. Many families will benefit from help with child care costs, especially people who work under 16 hours a week, who will get help for the first time. Households with one or more disabled adults will be able to keep up to £647 a month of their earnings before seeing a reduction in their universal credit. It will also offer a more flexible system for people whose ability to work fluctuates. Universal credit will encourage more disabled people to see work as financially viable, increasing their dignity and self-esteem.

Fiona O'Donnell (East Lothian) (Lab): What about new claimants? How does the Minister respond to evidence provided by Citizens Advice, which shows that 230,000 severely disabled people who live alone with a young carer could be worse off, 100,000 disabled children could lose up to £28 a week, and up to 116,000 disabled people who work would be at risk of losing around £40 a week?

Mr Hoban: As I said, the cash benefits for people on transition are protected. We hear the figures published by Citizens Advice but we do not understand where they come from. They are not borne out by our understanding. Let me move on to talk about disability living allowance.

Mr Byrne rose—

Mr Hoban: I want to move on. I have been very generous in giving way to the right hon. Gentleman, as he acknowledged.

We all know that some disabled people face extra costs as a result of the impact of their disability. The main source of financial support, disability living allowance, has not been fundamentally reformed since 1992. Our welfare reforms presented an opportunity to start afresh, keeping the best elements of DLA that people value, but bringing the benefit up to date to make it fit for the 21st century. The personal independence payment—PIP—is

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easy to understand and administer. It is financially sustainable and more objective. It will be better targeted on those in most need. Throughout the whole development, we have consulted widely with disabled people and have used their views to inform policy design. We have continued to listen and consult, ensuring that these reforms continue to be shaped by the views of disabled people themselves. In other words, reform is not static and this Government are committed to listening and acting where change is required.

Instead of simply cutting money from everyone, we chose the more difficult but principled option of modernising the benefit and focusing support where it is most needed. PIP will be awarded on the basis of a fair, consistent and objective assessment which will enable us to target support on those who face the greatest barriers to independent living. More than one fifth of PIP recipients will get both of the highest rates, worth £134.40 each week, compared with only 16% on DLA. That demonstrates that we are focusing support on those in most need.

Mr William Bain (Glasgow North East) (Lab): Does the Minister accept the figure in the Demos and Scope study which indicates that 3,000 households could be affected by six individual welfare changes and lose as much as £4,500 a year? Does not that cumulative effect on living standards create the need for a cumulative assessment of what welfare reform is doing?

Mr Hoban: The hon. Gentleman illustrates in that question the impossibility of the task suggested in the motion. He has focused on one area. He has not taken into account tax changes, changes in fuel duty, the additional money that we are spending on improving access, the pupil premium or the changes that we are making to social care. To do an assessment properly—to look at that level of detail—as the motion suggests, involves looking across the whole of Government in a way that no Government have done before. It is the complexity of the issue that defeats specialist bodies trying to assess the full impact.

We did hear two bits of policy from the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill. He backtracked on the spare room subsidy but he also talked about care. We are constantly looking at ways of joining up and simplifying care. We have made fundamental reforms to improve systems and bring spending under control. The Care Bill goes much further than ever before in giving disabled people real control. We are taking practical and far-reaching steps—for example, extending personal budgets for health and care, introducing a new duty on local authorities to co-operate, and introducing education, health and care plans for our children and young people. We will bring forward proposals in the autumn to improve employment support for disabled people.

The right hon. Gentleman spoke about a new single personal budget, but as usual there is no detail. He said nothing about how it will be funded—a point proved by my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool North and Cleveleys (Paul Maynard)—nothing about whether it will be means-tested, and nothing about whether local and national systems will be integrated. Will the right hon. Gentleman abolish PIP, for example? He told us nothing about how such an assessment would work, and nothing about the data-sharing issues that clearly

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arise. It is very clear that that is yet another kite flown by him with no information, no detail, no substance—again, three years in opposition completely wasted, with no fresh ideas.

We are clear that this Government always inform their decisions with equality analysis of policy changes, as required by the Equality Act 2010. All major welfare reform changes have been accompanied by a published equality impact assessment and these are updated if impacts change. I reiterate that a cumulative impact assessment would be so complex and subject to so many variables that it would be meaningless, helping neither individuals nor policy makers, and it would soon be incorrect and out of date. This may be something that the right hon. Gentleman wants to push, but it has not been done by any Government.

The Treasury does publish a broad-brush cumulative analysis of all tax, benefit and public service reforms at every fiscal event. This is a coalition initiative and something that the previous Government did not do. It is by its nature broad-brush, aimed at checking the broad distributional impacts of Government policy. It is not possible to do a meaningful breakdown for the disabled population. That is exactly why the previous Government did not do it. That is why I encourage my hon. Friends to vote against the motion. They know that it cannot be delivered. I urge them to support the amendment, which sets out what the coalition Government have done in office. We have acted to build a modern system of financial support for disabled people, acted to strengthen employment support and acted to provide better care for disabled people. We are delivering real reform for disabled people.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr Speaker: Order. I now have to announce the result of a Division deferred from a previous day. On the motion relating to the draft Alternative Investment Fund Managers Regulations, the Ayes were 273 and the Noes were 27, so the Question was agreed to.

[The Division list is published at the end of today’s debates.]

I notify the House that several right hon. and hon. Members wish to contribute to the debate, as a consequence of which I have imposed, with immediate effect, a seven-minute limit on Back-Bench contributions. As with all time limits in these circumstances, it is subject to review, depending on levels of interest and rates of progress.

3.29 pm

Tom Greatrex (Rutherglen and Hamilton West) (Lab/Co-op): I congratulate my right hon. Friends on the Opposition Front Bench on the motion and on rightly acknowledging the campaign outwith this place to bring the cumulative impact assessment to our attention.

I will begin with a non-partisan point: I believe that all of us in this House, whichever side we sit on, do our best to stand up for our constituents. Many of those who come to see us are the most disadvantaged, which is why it is right to point out that Members on both sides have been approached by constituents who are concerned about the impact of recent changes in Government policy—and not just the intended consequences, but sometimes the unintended consequences. That is why a cumulative impact assessment is so vital.

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Many of the people who come to see me in my surgeries or whom I interact with in my constituency are disabled, have been injured at work or, through no fault of their own, find themselves unable to work, and what they want is to live as independently as possible, which requires a level of support. For some of them, the impact of certain changes in Government policy might be difficult but will not necessarily make an overall difference. The cumulative impact of those changes, however, can often make a very significant difference in the way they live their lives. That is why it is important to have a full and complete assessment. I hope that the Government, despite the contribution we have just heard from the Minister, will embrace that, not just because it is a coalition initiative but because it is fundamentally important when they are making such a significant change to the way in which support for disabled people works in the UK.

In the time available, I would like to talk about the work capability assessment, which I have done on a number of occasions over the past two and a half years. I must say that the Minister’s predecessor, the current Lord Chancellor, was someone I could engage with. I would not always agree with him, but he would at least listen. I went to see him on a number of occasions. That attitude contrasts sharply with what we have seen more recently. I make that point because I am afraid that that attitude underlies the importance of having this type of cumulative assessment.

I have asked a number of parliamentary questions about the work capability assessment. The Minister, who is now listening, will recall that I have asked written questions that his Department has answered, but lately it has decided that it will not answer them. It has decided that, as a result of a change in the resources available to it, it will not answer those questions because they were requested in a slightly different form. Those questions were asked in exactly the same way, but the Minister refused to answer them. He will be aware, because there have been at least two debates on this, that my right hon. Friend the Member for Oldham West and Royton (Mr Meacher) sought to meet him, along with me and other campaigners, but he has refused to do so.

Mr Hoban: To be clear, what I have said—I have written to the right hon. Member for Oldham West and Royton (Mr Meacher) about this—is that if We Are Spartacus, the group he wants to bring, comes up with some positive suggestions on how we can improve the WCA, I will meet it.

Tom Greatrex: If the Minister will not see my right hon. Friend, how can he know of the level of constructive engagement that the group is offering? The judgment he made at the start of that exchange was precisely that he would refuse to see it because he did not want to engage with it. I will leave the matter to my right hon. Friend, who I am sure will wish to speak about it. That is the point I am trying to make in relation to a number of consistent examples. I hope the Minister will reflect on it today and over the summer.

The National Audit Office commented last summer on the DWP’s failure to apply the penalties or service credits within the WCA in relation to Atos Healthcare’s

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underperformance and failure to seek adequate financial redress. It was almost as if it just did not want to apply them, because that would indicate that there was a problem in the system.

Robert Flello: My hon. Friend is making an extremely important speech. I am sure that his experience will be the same as mine: when constituents come to see me, time and again they mention Atos. That is the only word I seem to hear some days because of the nightmare that that company is and the problems it causes to my constituents.

Tom Greatrex: I thank my hon. Friend for his intervention; he makes an important point. It is partly about Atos Healthcare, which has delivered the contract appallingly, but it is also about the deficiencies in the contract, which this Government, particularly—it gives me no pleasure to say this—since the current Minister has been in place, seemingly refuse to deal with.

Dr Greg Wood is a doctor who was employed by Atos until he left its employ at the start of May this year. In the middle of May, he made a series of serious and very specific allegations about his experience as a doctor working at an Atos centre and the way in which the work capability assessment was carried out. For the record, he suggests not that we should get rid of the assessment, or even that it gets cases wrong at either end of the scale, but that people in the middle are being caught because of the flawed way in which the system is designed and implemented. He said that

“claimants are often not being assessed in an even handed way… HCPs are not free to make independent recommendations, important evidence is frequently missing or never sought in the first place, medical knowledge is twisted and points are often wrongly withheld through the use of an erroneously high standard of proof”.

He said that if Atos assessors

“show deviation from the official line the HCP is instructed to change the report”


“In about a quarter of assessments important documentary evidence is missing but the assessments go ahead regardless.”

He said that training of new HCPs creates an environment where they

“expect that they will see in the course of their work score too few points to qualify for ESA. This is often the de facto starting hypothesis, with the effect that the claimant usually faces an uphill struggle before the assessment has even begun.”

He said that HCPs often “begrudgingly” score claimants and that an attitude is drilled into them

“which leans towards finding reasons not to award points”.

Those are very serious and specific allegations that I would have expected the Government to take seriously, given the warm words we frequently hear from the Minister and the Secretary of State, who has now left his place, about improving this process and constantly being vigilant about making it better for people.

I wrote to the Prime Minister on the same day asking him to investigate the allegations. He passed the correspondence to the Secretary of State, who wrote back to me on 22 June. I got back a one-page letter—I have it here—that made absolutely no reference to any of the specific allegations. It did not say that there was a problem; it was just a standard response. The Government wanted to brush it under the carpet. That attitude belies the problems that exist.

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On the same day, the Secretary of State’s private office e-mailed me, by mistake, a copy of a letter to another Member of Parliament—a Government Member—raising an individual’s case to which there was a much more systematic and detailed response. That is perhaps because the initial letter came from me, or from a Labour Member. I very much hope not, because they were very serious allegations that the Government decided to ignore completely.

This is not just about the frustrations of seeking information from the Government, although I admit that I do get frustrated about that. It is not just about the waste and inefficiency in a programme that is costing £110 million a year for the Atos contract, and now up to £70 million this year in the appeals process to correct the mistakes. It is not just about an attitude, although I say again that I have found the Minister to be dismissive, evasive and sometimes partisan in our engagement on this issue. It is also about the experience of real people in every single part of this country who often have to adjust their life circumstances due to events completely beyond their control due to illness, accident or incident. It is about people who will have seen a system that is not working properly because the Government rolled out the migration from incapacity benefit without taking into account the lessons identified in the pilot projects, with the consequences that we have seen since. Most of all, it is about decency, compassion and helping people, not hounding people. The system is wrong and it needs to change.

3.39 pm

Paul Maynard (Blackpool North and Cleveleys) (Con): It is a pleasure to speak in this debate—a debate that the Labour party has been running away from for far too long. For all its praise of Pat’s petition, which was placed on 1 November 2011, it took until 6 February 2013 for the shadow Secretary of State, the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill (Mr Byrne), to have the courage even to meet them. When he met them, what did their website say? It said that he had promised them an Opposition day debate as soon as possible, before the Budget. The Budget and the spending review have been and gone, and now what do we see? It is a press release from the shadow Secretary of State claiming that he has dragged Ministers to the Chamber, but it is he and his Front Benchers who have been dragged to this Chamber by Pat’s petition, We are Spartacus and other extremist disability groups that do not speak for the overall majority.

Let me explain to Labour Front Benchers why I might have sympathy with their reluctance. The cumulative impact assessment is a very narrow tool by which to judge the contribution of the disabled community in this country, their potential and what they can achieve. I think that it borders on the offensive and would suggest that Labour look a little more widely.

Just last week the Minister for the disabled, the Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, my hon. Friend the Member for Wirral West (Esther McVey), published the final set of documents of the “Fulfilling Potential” report. I urge those who want a proper cumulative impact assessment to look at the technical annexe, which is a far more challenging set

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of indicators than a cumulative impact assessment would provide and a far more nuanced, reasoned view of what being disabled means in Great Britain today.

Labour’s empty rhetoric and its sole focus on benefits as a measure of the quality of life of disabled people do a disservice to the wider disabled community. We often hear Labour Members talk of their desire for welfare reform. When we drill down to what they mean, as we have tried to today, it is very clear that they want more money for more people. The do not understand the nature of reform.

Let me quote what one of our eminent Paralympians, Jonnie Peacock, who won so many medals last year, said on 8 September 2012:

“I did not think I should be taking DLA from people who should be getting it. There are people who should not be on it and are getting it, and there are people who should be getting it and are receiving nothing. The testing could be more secure and then they could award the benefits to the right people.”

I cite that because it is clearly not a pro-Government press release, but a middle-of-the-road assessment that the vast bulk of disabled people share about what is occurring in this country.

Fiona O'Donnell: Will the hon. Gentleman at least acknowledge that people with disabilities are being disproportionately hit by the cuts this Government are making?

Paul Maynard: I thank the hon. Lady for her intervention. What I will acknowledge is that we are going through a period of profound and challenging change. We as a Government are seeking to edge towards greater recognition of the social model of disability, and that means not paying attention to the labels that too many want to hang around the necks of disabled people.

The personal independence payment, for example, looks at how individuals cope with their own conditions and disabilities. It does not say, “Tick box x for condition y and you will get these benefits.”

Fiona O'Donnell: I am sorry, but the hon. Gentleman does not understand what is in the assessment. It asks for very narrow yes or no responses that do not allow people to explain the nature of their abilities and disabilities.

Paul Maynard: I think that the hon. Lady misunderstands the actual point of PIP; it is to look at how people cope with their conditions. They are given ample opportunity to submit evidence and we help them to do that in my constituency surgeries. I hope that Labour Members do so, too, rather than store up a treasure trove of Atos scare stories that make people more scared of attending an Atos appointment than they were before.

Mr Byrne rose

Paul Maynard: I have given way enough times and the shadow Secretary of State has had his opportunity. If those on the Opposition Front Benches paid more attention to the “Fulfilling Potential” report, they might be a little chilled by what they read. Page 34 states clearly:

“Young people’s aspirations can decline in response to their growing understanding of the world”.

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Listening to Opposition Members, I am sure that young people’s aspirations will decline because of the negative messages they are getting. The report states:

“By the age of 26 disabled people are less confident”

about entering into the world. I think we should be celebrating the fact that this Government are taking steps on a broad range of measures—not merely disability benefits—that the previous Government never had the courage to take.

For example, consider a young person who wishes to go to university. Under the Labour Government they were scared to do so because they could not guarantee that their care package would be made portable. With this Government’s Care Bill, we are doing just that. How can we put a price on aspiration? How can we quantify hope? What do I say to disabled people using an organisation in my constituency that has just introduced a “Safe Journey” card they can show on trams to ensure that it pulls away more slowly and they do not get flung to the ground? How are such things incorporated into the precious cumulative impact assessment? So much that can be done for the disabled community will never appear in any impact assessment, but it can be reflected in what we are doing with the “Fulfilling Potential” initiative.

I begin to despair at so much of what I hear from the Opposition Benches and it makes me truly angry. I pay tribute to the previous Government for their work to try to improve awareness of disability hate crime. However, I react with fury to the reaction of so many Opposition Members when the reporting of incidents of disability hate crime increases because of work done by this Government, and the previous Government, to create an atmosphere in which people are more confident to report such crime. We are told that an increase in the reporting of hate crime is evidence of the Government’s war on the disabled. I find that disgusting. It is personally abhorrent that people should campaign in a partisan way on the backs of those in the most vulnerable section of our society, to make a partisan point. That does nothing.

The contribution of disabled people to this country goes far wider than the amount they receive in benefits. I recognise, however, that we cannot talk of aspiration or fulfilling potential if we do not have a stable system of state support. We are trying to ensure that the right people get the right amount of money to match their needs, abilities and aspirations to work, live their lives and fulfil their ambitions, not match the labels hung around their necks by the Labour party.

3.47 pm

Mr Tom Clarke (Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill) (Lab): I have great respect for the hon. Member for Blackpool North and Cleveleys (Paul Maynard), and although I do not agree with everything he said, like my hon. Friend the Member for Rutherglen and Hamilton West (Tom Greatrex), he brought some reality to a debate that so far—I am referring to contributions from the Government Benches—does not seem to relate to the world in which I live, the people I meet, or the families I represent.

The Minister read out what seemed to be a civil service briefing, but disabled people watching that are too accustomed to being asked to fill in large forms and

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all sorts of bureaucracy to be impressed by such an approach. We did not hear from Government Members of organisations such as Save the Children, Mencap, Radar, Enable and so on, which have proof of the cuts the Government are making, and particularly the disproportionate impact of those cuts on disabled people.

Let us return—it is right to do so, Madam Deputy Speaker—to the bedroom tax. The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions, the hon. Member for Fareham (Mr Hoban), who has now left the Chamber, basically defended what the Government are proposing, as did the Prime Minister right from the beginning. The Minister did not say, however, that the Government have since done two U-turns.

Kwasi Kwarteng (Spelthorne) (Con): What is the policy of the Labour Front Benchers? Their position regarding the bedroom tax seems to be all over the place. We have heard that the Leader of the Opposition has said that Labour would not repeal it, yet in this debate the Labour Front Benchers have suggested that they would.

Mr Clarke: There was a time when I was on the Front Bench and I might have been happy to respond to that point. I am satisfied that the Labour party will present to the British people at the election a manifesto that they will endorse. I will fight and fight again, whatever Government are in power, to ensure that this monstrosity of legislation does not remain on the statute book.

Let us examine what the bedroom tax means to ordinary people in our constituencies. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill (Mr Byrne) said, two thirds of those affected by the bedroom tax have a disability. That is absolutely outrageous. How can the Government have seriously considered putting in place such a proposal? According to an estimate by the National Housing Federation, 2,128 households will be affected in my constituency, and according to the Government’s own estimates 1,419 of them—along with 83,000 in Scotland and more than 400,000 throughout the country—are occupied by someone with a disability.

The Government claim that they are putting the housing market in a more appealing position. However, when we look at statistics—indeed, before we even do so—we know that there are simply not enough houses with the right facilities to which to remove disabled people if they have an extra bedroom. I have thought during the debate about several disabled people in my constituency and others I have met throughout the country. Two or three years ago, a young woman in my constituency was dying of variant CJD. She needed her bedroom, and she also needed another bedroom to accommodate the equipment that she desperately needed, including her supply of oxygen. How can we allow the Government to remove disabled people to smaller houses, when we know that those houses are simply not there?

Barbara Keeley: My right hon. Friend is making a powerful speech. Has he encountered in his surgeries a family like I have in mine? They are a disabled couple in their 50s who need to move out of an upstairs flat because it is not accessible. They are being denied homes that would be accessible for them, such as those that already have a stairlift, because of the bedroom tax. The tax means that people have to move, and it restricts future choice too.